The problem with Crete island is, just when you think you know her, you don’t. After seven years of writing all about Crete, I rediscovered today a surreal quality I never realized. Crete, or Keftiu as the ancients called it, is an ever evolving mirage.
Moment to moment, season in and out, everything here is dynamic, ever changing and all the same. At once, Crete is everlasting like the mountain plateaus, and transient like the perfumed sea breezes here. Here’s a few of my latest discoveries.
Zorba Still Dances
About eight years ago my family and I visited Crete for the first time. We fell in love instantly, and vowed to move here for good, which we did. As an American, myfamiliarity with such places came mostly from movies and books. That’s why Stavros Beach on the Akrotiri Peninsula in Chania Prefecture is meaningful.
For many people, the place where Anthony Quinn (Zorba) danced that famous dance with Alan Bates (Basil) is an indelible spot in the collective mind. The beach is, in many ways, symbolic of Greece for many people who’ve dreamed of visiting. And for Crete Island? Well, the mind of a child is an impressionable thing. Here I am.
When I found this Instagram share this morning, I immediately researched the photographer who posted the drone still. At that moment I had not yet realized this was Savros Beach, my impression from years ago being different, both in time and context. It was not until digital media specialist Michalis Koulieris identified it for me, that I regonized this special place. And in so doing, I also glimpsed for the first time my “mirage theory.” I can see Zorba dancing there, and then sitting under the awning of his travel camper there in the foreground. Transportive, just transportive.
At the Other End of Paradise
When we first stayed on Crete, we stayed in a wonderful place called Metochi Villas (Talk to Georgia) outside of Platanias. It was a perfect place in so many ways, and particularly as a basecamp for exploring west Crete. We hit all the high spots back then. Balos Lagoon, Falasarna, Old Town Chania, the Akrotiri wonders, and of course famous Elafonisi in the remote southwest of Chania Prefecture were on our menu. Later I learned, we missed something really amazing.
My friend Akis, who’s the baker in our neighborhood in Heraklion, he’s an experts on all of Crete’s beaches. “Phil, you have to go to Kedrodasos,” he’s always telling me. So, imagine my surprise when I scrolled through Michalis Koulieris’ and found the image below. Yeah, we really need to go there.
The beach is located about 76km southwest of Chania and about 1km east-southeast of famous Elafonissi. The “secret” place is lined with juniper trees and white sanddunes, and there’s usually no one there. It may be the islands most beautiful stretch of aquamarine sea and perfect sand. For hiking enthusiasts, it’s good to know that the E4 runs through this hidden gem. Today, I imagined living in a little stone house somewhere in this remote place. My Cretan Hound Mojito would love this place. But, wait!
Crete Island Takes Care of You
Some years back I was commenting to my dear friend Minas Liapakis about how the people of Crete seem to understand and to help a lot. I forget the circumstance, but I will never forget what he said. “Phil, Crete takes care of you.” And if there is anything I am sure of in this life, my family’s love and Minas’ statement are etched in granite. The island is incomperable, in this and many other ways.
Remember, up there, I mentioned Zorba retiring to his travel trailer? Well, why not? We’ve been living in a city apartment owned by our dear friend Anna Luca for over four years now. Looking for a house to renovate or a plot to build on here, has proven frustrating because of the sheer number of choices. So I am thinking, what about a nice Airstream or other camper parked someplace where it will count? It turns out, the Instagram by my new friend Michalis is outside tiny Lavadia Village. And guess where Lavadia is? Yep, right in between Elafonissi and fabulous Falasarna in Crete’s extreme western parts. Mihaela! Are you and Paul ready?
This part of Crete is extremely rugged, but also one of the most beautiful areas of the island. The E4 runs through here too, and hikers get a otherworldly experience hiking the seaside route. The beaches and coves here are not popular with tourists, because the wind is strong and the rocky shoreline is not kid friendly. But the sea never was a swimming pool calm idea for me anyhow.
I know I have not adequately expressed just how dynamic and changing Crete really is. The paradox here is the way so many things on the island have remained the same, and how many other things are ever changing. Since before written history, the people of the island were characterized as “those with the knowledge,” as if they were of Eden. And, as anyone who lives here can tell you, each new day casts a new light on the familiar. Like the morning mist up on Lassithi Plateua, we feel adrift here, and anchored in bedrock at the same time.
Come see Crete Island for yourself.
Editor’s note: A special thanks to Michalis Koulieris for shining a creative light on a truly astonishing place.